Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher – SUREASH CHOLAI
DID 500 rounds of 9-millimetre ammunition seized from a Chaguanas gun dealership in October 2022, go missing?
Although police investigations into the allegation of the missing ammunition are ongoing, police sources say it appears there was an “error” in the notation of how many rounds were actually seized by officers who went to the dealership owned by businessman Towfeek Ali to conduct an audit.
One source close to the investigation said an officer who was supervising the count of the ammunition incorrectly recorded the amount of 9mm ammunition in each box and then multiplied it to get a total of 1,130 rounds.
Ali’s attorneys are mulling over the filing of contempt proceedings against Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher and two senior officers after they claim 500 rounds of ammunition were not returned to him in keeping with a court order.
On January 23, Justice Devindra Rampersad ordered the police to return the guns and ammunition to Ali.
Ali’s lawyer Darren Mitchell claims all but the 500 rounds of ammunition were returned on February 3. In an affidavit filed on February 27, Mitchell said he was present during the police’s raid of Ali’s dealership in October 2022 during the alleged 18-day audit.
Newsday was told Ali’s attorneys are still awaiting a response to the Mitchell affidavit.
On Thursday, Ali’s attorneys were contacted by e-mail by ASP Sean Dhilpaul, of the Southern Division, with some questions.
Dhilpaul asked Ali to describe how the ammunition was packaged when it was retrieved from Ali’s home vault; how it was packaged after it was tallied and seized by police; how was the ammunition that was returned on January 24 packaged; if during the counting of the 9-millimetre ammunition was it mentioned to any officer that sweat could corrode ammunition if touched and if any officer, during the count of the 9-millimetre ammunition in the sealed box, was told that it comprised of 20 smaller boxes each containing 50 rounds?
Dhilpaul also had the same questions for Ali’s son who was also present during the raid.
After the issue of the missing ammunition was raised, the Police Commissioner ordered a probe into the alleged missing ammunition by the Professional Standards Bureau led by Snr Supt Suzette Martin.
Also initiating an independent investigation was the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
In a release last month, the PCA said section 26A of the PCA Act was guiding its investigation.
It also said, “Several similar reports of missing exhibits and seized items in the custody of the TTPS have been investigated by the PCA which has the sole remit under Section 48 (2) to investigate criminal offences involving police officers, police corruption and serious police misconduct. The allegation of missing ammunition from the TTPS is a matter of great concern, and the PCA will undertake a comprehensive investigation into this matter.”
Opposition East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal had raised the query about the purported missing ammunition at a parliamentary Joint Select Committee in February and at two press conferences calling for an investigation.